I love the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. and for the past year I’ve had two ideas for installations–both of which are highly interactive and deal with getting every day people’s photos preserved and displayed in a respectful way. Much like the idea behind Story Corps, in which they try to captures and share the stories of everyday people, I believe that photos of everyday people are worth recording and sharing in a way that shows respect equally for all people independent of wealth, age, location, background or education.
Human life is amazing, and portraits are a great way to capture part of that feeling. Our ability to cheaply capture and share portraits of ourselves and nearly every human being on the planet doesn’t need to diminish the impact of admiring the beauty and uniqueness present in every person. Instead, we should take advantage of how easy it now is to take and share portraits to both gather and record a snapshot of human history and to enhance our own cultural value and respect for all human life.
Facebook is now the number one place in the world to share and view portraits of people. I’m confident that there are more pictures of more people than ever before in history on Facebook, but it seems like just an after thought. Imagine giving profile pictures the dignity of being shown in world renown gallery, separate from all of the distracting ads and status updates usually associated with them. On Facebook people are a commodity that we collect, easily dismissed, but stripped of that commodity mentality and displayed respectfully you begin to think more about them as a person and perhaps begin to imagine their story–I do.
Well, my idea is to create an interactive digital installation at the National Portrait Gallery where people can connect with Facebook and submit a photo of themselves to be recorded and displayed on a large digital frame in the gallery, along side some of the best portraits in the world. Not only is this an interesting idea, I think it has the ability to bring a lot of people into the gallery to see themselves displayed on the wall. Users could “check in” with their phones when they visit and be moved up in the queue and given a certain timeframe they’d be displayed. People in the gallery could login into their Facebook via their phone or possible iPad display to add themselves to the installation right then and there. Maybe even see info on the people that are currently displayed, like name, age and city.
This installation would have a big wow factor, garnering lots of news and tech publicity, but I think perhaps it would also help positively reenforce our value and respect for all people, regardless of their status. (Pun intended)
The other idea, was similar, but instead of using Facebook to pull portraits, part of the installation would be to have your portrait taken with a professional setup designed by some famous photographer, perhaps automated by computer. They idea being, no matter your economic status every person deserves to be viewed in a respectful way. This would also offer a unique opportunity to preserve photos of everyday people in a very high quality and controlled way. I believe it would be exciting as a photographer to be a part of the recording of thousands of people’s portraits–designing the look and lighting of a massive collection of portraits. One publicity stunt could allow users to tag their portrait on Facebook. Anyway, I believe there are great opportunities to reach new audiences with this installation, but perhaps the Facebook installation is easier and more publicity friendly.